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Universes & WebI, the winning combination

for Ad-hoc Query, Analysis & Reporting


SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence suite remains one of the best BI platforms thanks to the powerful combination of Semantic Layer (Universes) and Web Intelligence (WebI).

Dashboards and data warehouses are powerful to monitor defined KPIs and SAP is proposing amazing solutions. The most recent one is SAP Data Warehouse Cloud making data meaningful with a single business semantic service unifying all data.

But with the huge amount of data available today and the speed of decision making, the agile BI is a complementary Business Intelligence expectation. Exploring all data for deeper or new analysis must be easy, fast and available for all business users who are doing data driven decisions regularly.

The BI Semantic Layer {Patent US5555403A} (Universe) has always been a foundation of the BI Suite value proposition. Invented and released for the first time in the 90’s, the BI Semantic Layer is very mature and has been used intensively by all our customers for decades.

Compared to ETL or Data warehouse, Universe is not storing data but is providing a business semantic on top of your existing data sources, without modifying them, allowing your users to manipulate classic notions of their business without any code writing requirement. Associated with WebI that is the only BI Tool that can leverage the Universe capabilities entirely, it’s providing a great example of No-Code technology enabling a very simple, fast and efficient way to consume any kind of data in a self-service mode (without any scripts or SQL required to be written).

All query results (fetched data) are stored in the WebIntelligence document and are moved into memory when the document is opened. The Mature and powerful cubes & C++ in-memory engines enable several very interesting use cases. This is one of the reasons why WebI is considered being the BI Swiss knife:

  • Users can efficiently manipulate and consume the data in offline mode regardless of the data source access. Compared to a live data access, business users will refresh of their data explicitly and can do so at any time (Live vs. On Demand). At database level, the “On Demand” fetch approach can generate bigger queries than a live access one. However, we deal with a one-shot loading rather than query data that is regularly pushed to the database based on business user’s actions. Added to that, WebI documents can be purged so that the data is no longer stored, and we offer a data refreshing option taking effect when users open their documents. As a result, you can start your analysis with fresh data. Depending on your constraints and use cases, SAP is providing great experience for both approaches:

  • Data cubes can also provide other advantages. E.g users can create very complex variables (Formula Editor with functions, conditions and operators but also with contextual aggregation capabilities) mixing data from different sources to create enriched data and analytics.

  • This calculation engine also enables advanced reporting capabilities (sections, breaks, cross-tables, measure aggregations, etc.).

  • The “in-memory cubes and engines” provide also a high-performance experience. It’s less roundtrip with the databases, the cubes are optimized for fast analytic calculations, while also supporting and leveraging OLAP data, etc.

  • In the coming BI 4.3 SP03, the WebI data mode will be back. It offers a lot of great enhancements compared to the 4.2 release. E.g Joins & transformations (a.k.a Lumira capabilities). The WebI cubes will again be leveraged to enable simpler data preparation use cases.

  • And finally, it also offers a lightweight ETL experience, i.e data prepared in a WebI Document can now be reused easily thanks to “WebI as a Source” or OData service introduced in 4.3 SP02 and enhanced in the coming SP03. This eases integrations and helps to leverage data prepared within WebI in other applications.

After years of innovations, the calculation engine technology is still very competitive.

The biggest evolution of BI 4.3 compared to BI 4.2 is the modernization and simplification of the BI LaunchPad & WebI UI leading to an enhaced and appreciated user experience (Fiori) thanks to a frontend technology switch.

This being said, WebI 4.3 is still based on the same powerful backend engines and guarantee for a full compatibility between these 2 releases. These engines are enhanced regularly so as to ensure you get a simpler and greater Ad-hoc Query, Analysis and Reporting experience from release to release, and now also for Dashboarding use cases.

I hope this article helps you understand the heart of the business value provided by the combination of Universe & WebI.

We are totally committed to continue innovating on these Universes & WebI use cases. Patents are not only regularly posted but also implemented.

Don’t hesitate to comment or ask questions. I will write other articles drilling down on key features related to Ad-hoc Query, Analysis & Reporting use cases.

Hera are a couple of other great articles that describe the latest Universe & WebI BI 4.3 innovations in details:

SAP BI 4.3: What’s New In Web Intelligence and Semantic Layer

SAP BI 4.3 SP1: What’s New In Web Intelligence and Semantic Layer

SAP BI 4.3 SP2: What’s New In Web Intelligence and Semantic Layer

SAP BI 4.3 SP3: What’s New In Web Intelligence and Semantic Layer (new)

A lot of other very nice information in the Community page, like the recently announced new BI 2024 release.